Updated: Jan 21
As you may know, traveling while on a gluten free diet can be extremely challenging and problematic as you are limited not only by what you can eat, but also where you can eat. You may find yourself exhaustively searching through the area you are traveling trying to find a grocery store to shop in, then going through the process of looking through all of the food items in the grocery store, reading through every single ingredient, checking for a gluten free label, also making sure that it is simultaneously not processed or packaged on shared equipment with wheat. It can become a huge inconvenience and headache to travel while on the gluten free diet. This is why I feature a travel section on my blog so I can help make this process easier for everyone who is reading this feature, so you feel you have options. You should be able to enjoy your vacation and not worry about providing yourself the basic human necessity of life- food.
You may have noticed there are restaurants who provide gluten free options. However, if the menu indicates that they do not have an entirely gluten free kitchen, they cannot absolutely guarantee cross-contamination will not occur. Unfortunately, not all restaurants warn you about this and to be honest with you, they really should. I want to personally thank those restaurants who provide such a disclosure to their guests because that shows understanding and awareness of all types of people dining at their restaurants. There’s a but here though. Regardless, if you decide to take a risk by eating at their restaurant, that is on you if you become sick because you acknowledged their disclosure. I mention this because as someone living with Celiac Disease, I personally will not eat at any restaurant that does not have a 100% dedicated gluten free facility. There is nothing better than to have peace of mind before you eat. Meaning, no need to read any disclosures, no terms, nothing as there will be not be any wheat at all present in their facility, which honestly gives me the biggest form of relief. I will not and refuse to take any risks when it comes to my health. It's not my thing because I never want to experience any form of intestinal lymphomas, other cancers, or other health issues that this disease can cause if not careful enough. What's even more frustrating is that being too careful is not a solution to this lifestyle either. Regardless, you still have to be too careful.
I know you’re probably thinking that I am severely Celiac but, there is no such thing. Yes, I feel symptoms and I clearly know when something is wrong, but for those who do not feel symptoms, that's when it also becomes worrisome. The saying "What you don't know won't hurt you" simply does not apply to your health. It's when you don't know that something is wrong is when it becomes a sneak attack problem. Celiac Disease is not a food intolerance. I’ll say this much: Not all cases of Celiac Disease are the same. But, don’t ever underestimate this medical condition. Your health is your health.
Additionally, since it is very difficult traveling gluten free, I have created this article with the purpose of sharing my experiences and what helps make my travels more pleasant. So, below are what I find to be incredibly reliable resources I utilize to the utmost when I travel.
Tips for Traveling Gluten Free
1. Research 100% gluten free bakeries and restaurants in the area you are traveling to
The key here is research, research, research. Make the internet search engine your best friend here. If where you are traveling to does not have any 100% gluten free restaurants or bakeries, I would proceed to step 2. But honestly, in today’s world, I find that this is highly unlikely. Facilities that are 100% gluten free are typically available for those who are serious about the gluten free diet and are likely to be owned and operated by people who have Celiac Disease themselves as they understand the severity of it. Again, no terms, no disclosures, nothing. Nowadays there are more than likely gluten free restaurants and bakeries in just about any tourist area you visit. I am not talking about places that offer a gluten free menu... I am talking about dedicated all entirely gluten free facilities. There is a huge difference. Again, the key is to research beforehand. Be mindful that major cities are more likely to have dedicated 100% gluten free restaurants. As for smaller cities, there is still a need for dedicated gluten free restaurants! #makeitatargetmarket
2. Locate all of the nearest grocery stores in the area you are traveling to
This is of utmost importance because let’s say you are unable to locate an entirely gluten free restaurant or bakery. You have done your research and even called those establishments ahead of time who advertise as being gluten free to make sure that they are trustworthy. Well, let’s say you haven’t been able to locate anywhere that is truly gluten free... Then it is on to the grocery store!
Whole Foods, for instance, is a chain grocery store in the U.S. that has a wide variety of gluten free selections. They even have frozen microwaveable gluten free dinners that are available. They have many locations across the country from California to New York City, so if you happen to be traveling through the states, Whole Foods is an excellent option for finding gluten free food. Whole Foods also tends to have microwaves and eating areas inside their stores. What I would do is call ahead of time and make sure they have this option. Then, I would locate the frozen section and have a little frozen dinner party at Whole Foods. I have done this so many times I cannot even tell you how much I have. And it works for me!
If you are traveling to the Northeastern part of the United States, there is also a beautiful store called Wegmans, which is a chain with locations all over New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey as well as Virginia. If you are 100% gluten free, this place is gluten free heaven. First of all, their stores are huge. Like, massive. This retailer dedicates itself to labeling every single item in their store to notify their customers what products are not only gluten free, but also lactose free, and vegan. I mean, they are phenomenal with product labeling. They also typically have microwaves and dining areas in their store as well.
If you do not want to take a lot of time in a grocery store looking for gluten free food to eat, I highly recommend using a service called Instacart, which is an app as well as website you can use to locate a grocery store in the area you are in, where you can either pickup your groceries after they are shopped by another person or have all of your groceries delivered to you through this service. I use it all the time and I love it because I am able to type in the terms "gluten free" on the search in the app and everything that is available that is gluten free will pop up so that I can place it into my virtual shopping cart, check out, and then either wait until my grocery order pickup is ready, or that it is en-route to be delivered to me. It is such a convenient service for someone like myself who is gluten free. It prevents headaches for me.
If you are traveling to destinations such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, Texas, or the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, there is a store available called Snap Kitchen that you must try where they have an entirely gluten free facility that offers pre-prepared breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks for everyone. I have eaten at Snap Kitchen so many times before and I love what they have to offer. The best part about their store is that everything is fresh! Nothing is frozen. I mean, what’s better than having breakfast, lunch, and dinner already prepared for you? Honestly, nothing is better... especially if you have to lead a gluten free lifestyle.
It certainly makes my life easier living with Celiac Disease. It's always such a challenge for me to have to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for myself every single day of my life and if I could have someone else do it for me and know that it will actually be gluten free, then I have achieved that peace of mind. Seriously, the gluten free diet is such a challenge. Thank you, Snap Kitchen for being available to the gluten free community.
Take a look below!
One of their slogans is "I didn't cook this." Meaning you didn't have to cook anything because everything they sell is already prepared and ready for you to enjoy. Just look at this beautiful store... All fresh, healthy, gluten free, pre-packaged meals ready for your enjoyment. They also have keto-friendly, vegetarian, milk free, paleo, vegan, whole30, and pescatarian options. Just fabulous!
Look at all of their 100% gluten free breakfast as well as salads and side items. Incredible!
Here is an up-close of some of their breakfast items. Two of my favorites of theirs that I've had probably over 25 times or more are their Almond Butter Pancakes as well as their Banana Pancakes. Top these delicious pancakes with fruit and whipped cream and you have a gourmet gluten free breakfast you didn't even have to prepare yourself. There is truly nothing better than that. Look at the adorable little maple syrup bottles they sell too... Love it!
They have a large menu which you can look through and order ahead of time on their app as well. Can you see my name on the bag in the bottom left hand corner in the picture below? ;) some yummy meals await me!
All various lunch and dinner items...
More lunch and dinner items...
Delicious non-alcoholic and healthier drinks...
You have an entire assortment of options! Again, all gluten free.
They also have microwaves in their store.
Plus, they have places to sit inside their stores where you can eat and enjoy your meal.
I truly hope that they open more stores all throughout the country so more of America can take advantage of this type of establishment that is a need.
On another note, if you are traveling to destinations outside the U.S., you are likely to either find supermarkets that have gluten free items or dedicated gluten free supermarkets. Again, it's important to do your research beforehand!
More than likely, you are going to be able to find something gluten free to eat in a grocery store. Nowadays, since more and more people are becoming aware of the gluten free diet, there are many more options available than there were 10, or even 5 years ago.
Now, proceed to Step 3.
3. Make sure to reserve a hotel that has a full kitchen or kitchenette
It is important to reserve a hotel that is equipped with a full kitchen in your actual room so you can cook things on the stove that is provided. Now, another issue you might run into here is sharing your hotel room’s pots, pans, dishes, and even toaster as it is also shared by other guests in the hotel. I would never recommend using the same toaster that is provided or even the same pots and pans. What I find myself doing is driving to a drug store like a CVS or a Walmart or even a local grocery store and purchasing inexpensive pots and pans that you can use during your stay. For instance, CVS sells a set of wooden spoons for around $2.79 and a pizza pan for $5.79. Afterwards, when I no longer need these items and am not likely to have room for them to bring back in my suitcase, I will find a Goodwill or a homeless shelter to donate them to. Gluten free food is a need everywhere, including homeless shelters and food pantries. Additionally, any food I do not consume, I donate because the gluten free diet is also a rather expensive diet (which is a whole other issue altogether because many who need to be gluten free cannot afford groceries due to the economic burden of the gluten free diet) which is why it’s great to donate gluten free food to those in need of it as well as for those who cannot afford it.
Proceed to Step 4.
4. Pack your own food
Ok. So, I’m the kind person who always has to have food around. Seriously, I always make sure I have at least a snack bar or a little bag of chips in my purse because I am likely to get hungry anywhere I go but may not be able to eat where I go having this Celiac Disease.
When it comes to traveling on the gluten free diet, always be sure to pack some snacks with you. If you are taking a road trip, bring a cooler with enough food inside. If you are going camping, bring a thermos or a mini portable stovetop cooker that requires no electricity or unit plug in. Don’t forget to bring a small pot to cook with. If you are traveling on a long plane ride, do not rely on the in-flight meals to be gluten free because they won't be. You do not want to go hungry or get sick when you’re on a long plane ride. An 18-hour flight is the longest flight I’ve taken, and it was not fun, so I speak from experience. I pack several gluten free sandwiches, and even a small cooler that is travel compliant and large enough that it has food that will last me through my travels. It will be well worth the little extra effort to carry this on board with you so that you have a variety of things to eat. Of course, always make sure what you bring to eat is travel compliant.
These are just a few tips for traveling while gluten free. I hope you find this article helpful. Remember, just because you are gluten free does not mean that you have to give up enjoying your life and experiencing all of the beauty the world has to offer and for you to see.
*Disclaimer: My opinions are my own, of course! Additionally, this is not a sponsored post as I am not affiliated with any of the brand names mentioned here. This is based on my own research and wanting to inform, educate, and provide resources to help those navigate being gluten free like I am. Also, it is always best to seek medical advice from a doctor who specializes in Celiac Disease.